A few weeks ago (actually, this topic seems to creep up once or twice a year) I asked on Twitter whether it was the curators’ responsibility to embrace social media and other digital technology within their roles or should it be left to the department to which these roles already exist. There were a lot of interesting replies:
Curators already have too much on their plate. They have had to adjust from a history background to working with a business model. Curators are also traditionalists - this new fangle technology isn’t going to last (eg – it has to prove itself to curators).
Yes, they need to move with the times. Curators should translate collections and digital helps that translation. Social media and other digital apps help curators with that translation so they need to use it.
From this, Kelvin De Veth agreed to write this Guest Blogs with his thoughts on the subject.
Role of a Modern Day Curator in a Digital World
It may be a bit early to give the 21st century a name, but so far it definitely seems to be the digital century. You can’t walk across Times Square or through the Louvre without bumping into crowds of people taking out their phones and iPads to take a picture and upload it to their Instagram, Twitter and Facebook accounts.
Museums, showcasing past and present societies, will inevitably be influenced by this advancement in technology. The curator, in particular, will be affected by these changes. His/her profession has become much more accessible to the general audience, resulting in an explosion of “Twitter curators”, “Pinterest curators”, and so on. I don’t want to go into a discussion about what a curator is or should be, but this development will without a doubt have its effects on the curators working in museums, and their relationship with the digital world.
In my modest research and conversations with curators, I have found two major, and almost completely opposite, approaches to the challenges and opportunities created by advancing technologies.
These are a group of curators who aim to make their exhibitions as innovative as possible, both in content and exhibition design. Translating and presenting the meaning of a certain history can become much more accessible to the visitor via digital media. The audience can become more involved and interact with exhibitions before or after entering the physical space. Thanks to digital media, they don’t even need to visit anymore to get the basic gist of the show.
I have heard some great ideas for interpretation, such as using social media profiles to tailor the interpretation to the visitors’ interests and existing knowledge. It may still be a while until technology allows this, though.
Traditionalists are more wary about implementing digital media in exhibitions. There is a fear that by being too focused on the digital, it will alienate the segment of the audience that is not tech savvy. On top of that, the added pressure of staying up-to-date with all recent technological development and incorporating these into exhibitions can be too demanding on the curator—especially for curators who aren’t immersed in the tech world to begin with. One can wonder how much a focus on the tech side will actually benefit the exhibition content.
These seem to be the two main camps that divide the curatorial world at the moment, and there is no real consensus about to what extent the integration of technology in exhibitions is the responsibility of the curator. We need more time to see to what extent it is beneficial, but in the meantime it will be interesting to hear what the readers of this blog think.
What are your thoughts? Should curators embrace digital/social media or should that be left for ‘others’?
There have been a few fabulous and very detailed post on Museum on the Web which I’m not going to try and compete with. Instead, after being home for a few weeks (and finally getting over jet lag) these are the items that still are prominent with me.
Facebook killed 25% of the website
While in the Tate web assessment session, we were asked to come up with a profile of an average visitor to a website. Originally we had a personal website but soon realized the profile required a more established website and as Guggenheim was within our group, they were duly elected. Read the rest of this entry »Tags: Conference, International, museums, mw2013, USA
While in Philadelphia I was invited to visit Chemistry Heritage Foundation as my sister Darlene Cavalier, who runs Sci Starter, had a meeting there. I went but must admit, I wasn’t looking forward to it (I can say that now that I’m 3500 miles away again).
A museum on chemistry? Really? It just sounded like watching paint dry. Even when I walked in I remember saying ‘well this isn’t going to take me long…’
Boy was I ever wrong!
Chemistry Heritage Foundation (CHF) has turned into one of my favourite museums on so many different levels. Read the rest of this entry »Tags: museums, Philadelphia, review, science, USA
Yesterday, I was invited to do just that at the American History Museum Tweetup that took place as part of #musesocial discussion online (Twitter).
Ten of us were privileged to this experience this week and I can honestly say it was a day I will never forget.Tags: #musesocial, curator, curator talk, smithsonian, USA
I’ve been trying to figure out how best to share my findings from the Denmark Museum Conference. There was so much insight over the 3 days, with the added bonus of having a tour of a few museums which included curators talk.
Full Storify here of all the tweets used with the tag #paatvaers
Tags: denmark, International, museomix, outreach
Whenever I tell someone I’m working on MuseoMix UK for November, the first obvious question I get is:
What is MuseoMix?
For three days the participants co-create and test new ways of approaching exhibitions.
We bring together museum professionals, actors of the innovation and the digital world, lovers of art and science, and other lovers of education and culture. This community mixes his views and embodies his ideas around a model museum whose vision is:
- more open and inclusive, where everyone can find “his” place
- networked and connected with diverse communities of visitors online and onsite.
- a living laboratory that grows with its users
Tags: digital, France, International, museomix, participatory
For me, MuseoMix is an experience. For others, it’s an ethos. For others it’s a project.
This morning, I got involved in a conversation on Twitter that was lively, with a hint of debate and sadly, still no answer.
A little background:
Back in April, 2012, Peter Davies sent me a copy of Museums and the Disposal Debate: A Collection of Essays @pjdavies2000 @museumsetc.
As an archivist wife, I’m well familiar with the issues involved in decommission and disposal (as related to puppets). Every debate seems to be around money: storage, ownership, current economic issues, responsibility, etc.
The big issue for me has always been this: Once an item or collection is disposed, it can’t be undone. Our current economics should not be the reason, or excuse, to decommission and ruin any chance for future generations to have the art/collection because we couldn’t handle our wallet.
Reality is we mustn’t let economics be the assessor in evaluation of the works at that time.
I’ve Storified the Twitter conversation here (with permission). What are your thoughts?
*Please note, these are our opinions and not those related to employee yada yada yadaTags: Collection Management, Disposals Debate, museums, twitter
I’m often asked why / how sectors (cultural and business) should use social media and this snowy weather has been a great example. Since the snow started in the UK this week, I’ve witness some prime customer service that proved another value for social media (for those still unsure). Tweets and Facebook updates went beyond the collection and that was absolutely brilliant. It showed a pulse behind the walls – it showed the humanist side that is oh so important with *social* media.
The following are just a few examples that I’ve seen.
Delayed opening and Closure information. Like many schools, museums were playing that ‘Do we stay open or do we close’ game that they recognized was inconvenient for those wanting to visit. Being completely honest and transparent with the updates lessen the blow for those that were planning on visiting but couldn’t. Why? Because as annoying as it was, the updates explained the reason behind the decision.
Museum / Gallery had to close? Not a problem as many shared activities on the website to keep kids / family occupied. Apps and games were big suggestions but seen a few recommendations of books and other websites.
Transportation information (including bus routes) were being shared so even if the venue was staying open, you knew what public transportation was running (or not running as the case may be).
Sharing of local information – not just museum related. Lots of local independent businesses were trying to stay open and I caught a few tweets that mentioned the venue was closing but to get a nice slice of cake at the local bakery, etc.
Sharing Snowman pictures - ok, so yes yes everyone was sharing snowman pictures. But a few clever people did non-traditional snowmen that were brilliant. It didn’t have anything to do with the museum or art gallery but it fell under the ‘creative’ heading and it was refreshing to see the venues taking part in the fun of the moment.
Recommendations of checking on neighbours and homeless. This wasn’t just museums doing this but it was nice to see museums and cultural venues reminding their followers.
As it’s just the start of the ‘winter season’ I’m sure we’ll have many more snow/ice days to contend with.
If you were one of the museums who tweeted one of the above – THANK YOU! If you weren’t, maybe next time?
This also led to discussions on advocacy and the role advocates play in today’s word-of-mouth marketing. This is not a new ethos, but with the use of social media advocates can provide a quicker more positive approach to bring in a wider range of diverse people
With this in mind, I thought it would be good to share a few suggestions on where to start:
Tags: advocates, Culture, museum community, museums, Volunteer
Like all relationships, these things take time. Some advocates already exist (Friends, Volunteers) while other relationships need to be built up.
These are thoughts from different conversations I have had on social media.
Outreach to the community.
Bring the community into the museum instead of waiting for them to come to you. Many community groups such as ones that work with elders, community volunteers, disabled, etc, are looking for different projects but might not feel cultural venues fit into their program or even know they are an option. Think beyond education and interpretation.
Do NOT forget the Teens/Young People.
As many people may or may not know, we are creating Teens in Museums with founding members Milwaukee Art Museum, Museum Teen Summit, Smithsonian Ed Lab & Museum of London Youth Panel to help provide a portal for international venues to share both best practice and examples of projects that might not have worked but might work for someone else. Trying and Sharing is so important.
Stop running museums as a business.
Ok, they need to be run as a business but do we the visitors need to know that? We don’t want to constantly be reminded that money is a forefront thought. Transparency is brilliant, to a point. A good example of how to be transparent: Natural History Museum in London periodically shares visitor numbers via Twitter, but doesn’t follow up with running cost.
Think outside the box
or as Adrian Russell suggested, CRUSH the box completely. In October I had the honor of seeing how opening the doors and trusting people could make a huge difference when I attended MuseoMix. Giving up a bit of control and allowing outsiders access to collections WILL provide a huge return. Museums need to think differently in order for meaningful changes to happen.
Museums and Art Galleries do not need to be overwhelming.
Think of them as a shopping mall – you only take away what you need but it’s nice to know where other items are should you need them. I’ve always had the philosophy that exposure was the key. Learn one thing from every visit – not everything, just one thing. I don’t even care if it is where the bathrooms are located or if the cafe sells cake.
Don’t feel you have to look at the art/artefacts
Just getting use to the space and seeing it’s not as intimidating as you might assume is time well spent.
How long should you look at a picture or artefact?
It doesn’t matter! If you don’t like it or it doesn’t grab your attention, move along. No one will snicker or roll their eyes or *tsk * behind your back.
Use Front of House for questions
Seriously, those people that stand/sit in the corner are there to answer questions – not just to tell you photos aren’t allowed. And they LOVE being asked questions.
Both venues and visitors need to use it more for conversation and less for marketing.
Social media is not to be used as a threat when one little thing doesn’t go your way. You can not threaten to use social media just because one employee didn’t respond quick enough, or the que was too long in the loo.
STOP using social media to SELL. Be social! Tell us why we should visit but interact with us when we’re there. Be the eyes and ears for what we don’t see – go behind the scenes. Ask us what we’d like to see. Ask us if we like cake, just talk TO us instead of AT us.
I’m sure there are other items not addressed here but these have been topics I’ve noticed in the last few weeks. What would you add? What do you dis/agree with?